Book Project: #1 Book Style


For my course on Documentary Media, I need to prepare a photography “book.”  The requirements are that it include about 20 pictures and 200+ words of text. We have the option of having the result printed by a book printer (e.g., Blurb) or making the book ourselves. 

I found the thought of making a book intriguing.  Smith, the author of our course book, offers several broad categories of book styles, with variations in between.  I’ll just cover the broad options at this point.  The Western Codex is the one most [western] people are familiar with; it’s the format with pages, bound on one side (usually the left side) and either hard or soft cover.  Other styles noted include: Fan Books; Oriental Fold Book; Venetian Blind BookScrolls.

In selecting a style one must consider what is impacted by the choice.  First, the choice determines how content is revealed to the reader. A codex presents content serially one page after another. An Oriental Fold Book offers an approach where many “pages” can be seen at once.  A Fan is similar, but it’s more like slices.

Another outcome of the choice is the pace of delivery of the content.  For codices, there is a short pause in the presentation as one turns the page. The author can introduce additional pauses by, say, introducing a blank page.  The author can adjust the pace with layout as well as page turning, for example, single pictures on one side of a page vs. multiple pictures on a page.  The complexity of individual images also plays a role: small changes in images tend to be gone through faster than images that change significantly (more “look time”).   The Fan and Oriental Fold Book have less deterministic pacing. One does have some control over how quickly the device is opened / unfolded but the pace is not as regulated as the codex.  

Movement among the photographs is another outcome of the choice.  Codices are an ordered collection of pages.  Their order is established in the binding.  Very often a codex is opened at the beginning and read sequentially, one page at a time, beginning to end.  However, one is not forced to move in a single direction; one can return to previous pages, skip forward, etc. One can skim the codex before getting into it seriously.  The other styles can offer movement in different ways.  The Fan, for example, through the opening of the leaves; the Oriental Fold Book by the folds; and the Venetian Blind book by the blinds.  

As well, there are physical considerations related to the construction materials and reader response.  The material used for the “pages” will have a feel which leaves an impression on the reader.  For example, paper feel can offer some emotional response: rice paper might offer a sense of something delicate, heavy-weight paper of something solid and robust .  The size of the page, small vs. large, can generate different responses related to the significance of the work; big books may “shout” in your face; little books are more subdued, gentler.  

There are some practical implication, such as the portability of the book and more broadly, ease of use.  Size, weight and potentially construction materials can all influence this factor.

The final parameter into this question of choice, is which best portrays the content — photographs — to be presented.  

My thinking at this point is to assume a Western Codex-style book.  Making this assumption now, but leaving open the final decision until I get further in the process, let’s me build some sort of working model. There are some practical considerations:

  • I have had several books printed, so I am familiar with the tools and process
  • It is easier to find a publisher should project timelines demand that route.


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